'Woke' Dance School Drops Ballet from Auditions for Being 'Racist'
'Built around particular white European ideas'
Britain’s Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) has dropped ballet from its auditions because it is “built around white European ideas” and is too “gendered.”
The Telegraph reported that the school had dropped its auditions process because of its “potentially contentious nature."
“It is essentially an elitist form," explained the head of undergraduate studies at the dance school, Francesca McCarthy.
"Young people need to pay to take ballet classes as a general rule and for a vast number of potential students, they’ve not had access to ballet."
“It is a very specific form that is built around particular white European ideas and body shapes that are often alienating to young people who do not fit that aesthetic ideal,” she asserted.
“There are issues relating to body, money, language and movement vocabulary.”
McCarthy also complained that ballet “has strongly gendered roots in terms of the movement vocabulary."
She references the fact that “most of [the NSCD’s] ballet staff were trained at a time where divisions in the teaching of ballet were clear and men lifted women.”
She conceded that over time there was “a shift”, but insisted that the status quo is “still problematic in relation to [the] inclusion of non-binary and trans dancers.”
Gendered language in ballet is also supposed to be an issue, with The Telegraph noting concerns about the fact that there is a clear division between female ballerinas and male dancers in ballet.
Implicit gender roles and gendered language is evidently a matter of great concern to the NSCD, with McCarthy saying that the use of gender-neutral terms like “dancers/people/folk/everyone/everybody” are encouraged and efforts made to “try and embed the use of they in terms of pronouns in order to not make assumptions about a dancer’s identity.”
Last year, A Black ballerina at one of Europe's premier ballet companies called out racism in the elite dance world.
As NBC News reported:
French national Chloé Lopes Gomes, 29, said she was mocked for her skin color and at times pressured to wear white skin makeup, leaving her feeling unsupported and humiliated.
Describing the ballet world as "closed and elitist," she criticized the lack of access racial minorities have to the classical art form.
Other dancers, including in the United States, have voiced their support for Lopes Gomes, saying that it is high time for the ballet world to address racism and bigotry.
She said that in rehearsals at Berlin's prestigious Staatsballett, which she joined in 2018, she was told her mistakes stood out because she is Black. In another incident, she said she was mocked when offered a white-colored veil for a show.
For some performances of "Swan Lake" she also said she was made to wear white makeup, despite the school formally dropping this requirement for people of color in the 2018-19 season.
Though she acknowledged this was a "tradition" of the show, it was one she deemed outdated.
"Asking not only a Black person but a ballerina to color their skin to look whiter, I don't think it's right — I felt very humiliated and very alone," she told NBC News.
"The harassment kept going, I was very depressed," she added.
During time-off for an injury in 2019, she said the combination of the injury and harassment led to her being prescribed antidepressant drugs.
Almost a year after she returned to work, she learned her contract, which is scheduled to end in July, would not be renewed.